Almost 70 percent of Floridians approve of legalizing medical marijuana, but that does not seem to be influencing the motivations of state lawmakers.
A proposed medical marijuana bill, the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act, has stalled out in the Senate and House, unable to get a hearing. At the same time, a bill that would ban bongs and pipes in the state was unanimously approved by a Senate committee.
Representative Katie Edwards spoke out at a press conference Monday stating, “Shame on us as a Legislature for not taking the opportunity to hear this [medical marijuana] bill this year.” Edwards was the bill’s sponsor. She became passionate about legalizing medical marijuana after speaking with a number of cancer patients and hearing how MMJ helped to alleviate their symptoms.
She told ABC, “I thought, ‘these are real people’ and I cannot turn a blind eye and stick my head in the sand and pretend like it’s not happening, because it is.”
Medical marijuana opponent Representative Jimmy Patronis, has argued that people who want to use medical marijuana should move to a state where it’s legal, rather than tryto change Florida’s marijuana policies.
Some are hoping to bypass the House and Senate by collecting voter signatures to get an amendment legalizing medical marijuana on the November 2014 ballot. Orlando-based fundraiser John Morgan is leading the charge in Florida, taking on the task of collecting 700,000 signatures in order to get the measure on the ballot.
While Edwards is not opposed to this, she wishes the legislature would take a more proactive role. She explained, “If voters mandate this upon us, we’re going to be reactionary. I’d rather take a proactive role. We could have a regulatory framework in place.”
Edwards plans to submit a compromised version of her medical marijuana bill next session, limiting medical cannabis use to oil, pill, or topical ointment in order to distance the perception of medical marijuana from recreational marijuana.
While a medical marijuana bill has floundered in Florida, there has been no hesitation from a committee that voted unanimously to prohibit the sale of bongs and pipes in Florida. SB 1140 would prohibit the retail sale of certain ‘drug paraphernalia’ including “pipes and smoking devices.” This bill was passed quickly on Monday by the Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice on a vote of 6-0.